Tuak, a traditional Sarawak rice wine, has come a long way from being just a drink for Dayak rituals and festivals and serving as a welcome drink for guests in longhouses.
Tuak has been a part of life for this family in Kuching for 130 years. Now the family is sharing their Tuak creations with the rest of the world via an Instagram shop.
"It wasn't our family's main source of income, much less a small business initially – just a family recipe and daily preparation that we all loved and passed on," shared Martiana of Tuak By The Rasa Family (The Rasa) Vulkanpost.
“Over the years we've been fortunate to have regular customers who have offered to pay us for our family's signature drinks. My parents saw this as an opportunity to sell more to their friends. "
The family behind the popular brew / Photo credit: Tuak Von The Rasa Family
Let the Gen Z do the talking
Although Martiana's parents saw a way to monetize their family recipe, they had always stuck with selling to neighbors, family members and friends via word of mouth or WhatsApp. But as someone with experience in online business, Martiana convinced her family to take the next step.
While she takes care of order taking, marketing, design and packaging, her grandmother is responsible for tuak production.
“My grandma is a pretty private and traditional person. Starting The Rasa online was pretty nerve-wracking for her as she didn't trust the internet and didn't get the idea to purposely buy new packaging for her goods as she sold it with empty wine / shot glass bottles that she already had with her had at home, "said Martiana.
Where all the magic happens with Grandma Rasa / Photo credit: Tuak From the Rasa family
But Grandma Rasa has never been one to step back from a challenge. In her childhood she was the oldest and only sibling who never had the privilege of going to school and was the mother figure of her 6 siblings.
Later, after the death of her husband, she was a single mother of her own 3 children. At that time she was a dentist in a state hospital, who from her late twenties also sold Tuak as a sideline.
Now being 75 years old, she has over 40 years of experience making tuak the best way. Even today she prefers to do everything by hand and dispenses with the modern mixer in order to use her tried and tested pestle and mortar instead.
Work with the ginger and hammer on the yeast / Photo credit: Tuak Von The Rasa Family
“She says that electrical appliances don't always work well and as a strong woman in her Christian faith she always says, 'God gave you two hands, use them,'” Martiana explained.
Another tradition dear to Grandma Rasa is never to open the bucket lid to check and taste the tuak to see if it is well fermented or not. This was a challenge for Martiana, who prefers to take control of her craft. In addition, stumbling or swearing around the Tuaks is also strictly forbidden in their families.
Due to her traditional approach, Grandma Rasa also does not believe in heating or cooling devices. And since they have no real control over the humidity, this can result in batches of "failed" tuak.
Nothing that seems to bother Grandma Rasa too much, it seems. "If we're lucky, we're lucky," Martiana repeated in what her superstitious grandma would normally say.
Use of hyperlocal ingredients
According to the family's observation, the modern tuak can come in many fruity flavors such as pineapple, grape, and rosella, but they continue to be made the traditional bidayuh way.
The Tuak des Rasa is made in batches of 2 large buckets. These fill around 30 to 35 large bottles, and each batch of tuak takes around 4 weeks to make. As much as possible, they source the ingredients hyperlocally.
They use handmade yeast from their aunt-in-law in Bintulu, which they will ship while the ginger and pandan leaves are harvested from Grandma Rasa's own garden.
If you like your alcohol sweet, maybe tuak is something you would enjoy. Grandma Rasas Tuak is not made to get you drunk; It should give the body a nice warm feeling, so the alcohol is also suitable for beginners.
In addition to the star of the show, Tuak, The Rasa also produces and sells turmeric juice and pineapple tarts / Image source: Tuak Von The Rasa Family
Although rice wines typically don't have bubbles or fizz, hers do, which is why Martiana compares her tuak to champagne. Essentially, you can expect The Rasa tuak to have a light bubbly, sweetness, and a bit of flavor from the ginger.
They are available in 2 sizes, 350 ml and 700 ml, and are available at retail for RM28 and RM42 respectively. Since their inception in late May 2021, they have sold over 100 bottles of tuak.
Bridging generation differences through Tuak
Despite the way they work, this business opened their eyes to their respective worlds for both Grandma Rasa and Martiana. Grandma Rasa finally trusts the internet more and Martiana herself is more in tune with her own local culture and tradition.
“When we were growing up, my grandma and I could never see things at eye level. I wasn't very proud to be half Bidayuh either because my siblings and I were always teased about being & # 39; anak orang putih & # 39; (literally & # 39; child of the white people & # 39;) because we normally spoke English at home and we weren't very fluent in the Bidayuh language compared to today, ”Martiana mused.
“But in recent years I have come to appreciate our culture and tradition. And now I usually just let my grandma do her thing and work her own magic. "
The Rasa is certainly not the only Tuak producer, but what many might notice is the rich history behind the family business, which Martiana is not afraid to proudly share online.
On top of that, knowing that the tuak you are enjoying is the product of a humble 75-year-old grandma who, after all the hard work, leaves the success of her creations to luck, it certainly has an appeal.
- Find out more about Tuak from The Rasa Family here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups we've covered here.
Photo credit: Martiana Chia, co-founder of Tuak By The Rasa Family